“Were we brave men we would never want. But the brave must tread the frightful unknown, the brave accept that death is but a guide, a calming voice in the storm. So it is told to us by the Great Emissary to go in peace and give mercy freely, for we are all strangers in the night. We are all finding our way home.” ~ Father Belthias, Ethics of Cosmogony vol. 3, Tychan Articles Boots sunk through snow swallowed by the chilled maws imprinted with every step. Shattering the frigid peaks of the wintery dunes shaping along the river’s edge, this was the passage many from Shoal-Ridge called the Old Father’s Pass. By following the largest vein of the many rivers splintering from Crobbear Lake in the North Western territories one could walk right through the prominent fishing town. It was said that their ancestors from the east of Epressa made this trek many ages ago thus the name. More importantly for Kalder Strowman and his caravan of sellswords it was the safest passage. Whipping winds and snowfall obscured the visions of treelines. Only faint lights seemingly high on a hill or elevation could truly point them in a direction; unfortunately, the young Strowman had educated those new to these parts not to focus solely on the lights. The snowfall had a way of bending them and leading travelers astray, and in this unforeseen cold it would be most tragic to be lost. As if to emphasize the point cold winds slammed against the caravan causing horses to stall in motion and men lean back with arms held up to bar the chafing winds. It was an unnatural storm or so it seemed as the young man only the age of fifteen years had claimed that such cold would only come traveling nearer to the spine. At this time warmer winds of the valleys tempered the chill. Tybalt was a larger man standing taller than most and wrapped heavily. Padded leathers made to insulate were worn in crude fashion over the plate of his armor that would no doubt have frozen him in place. His face was wrapped and covered allowing only the sterling blue of his eyes to strike out. As a member of the Holy Order, servant of Tychan, the Paladin was not adverse to the supernatural. In many ways it was his specialty to suss out any strange goings. For the Half-Orc he could practically smell it in the air. Something was odd with the winds and since their three day trek since entering the lands of Epressa the snowfall did not stop. These lands looked to be tundra but it couldn’t be so as those lands were further north and west of this Lake and valley. Tybalt would be honest with himself when admitting he’d not the faintest knowledge of what could be causing this. Magic? A curse? If that was the only estimate then the culprit of this malediction could be truly anything. In time through persistence the caravan would finally break the walls of the storm and meet low at the foot of a frosted hill. Kalder and his two guards marched high to scout village, but the rise of the boys hope could be seen collapse with his knees to the wintery earth. It was a wave of tragedy that trembled down the hill with an innocent cry of shock. Winds carried faint and ominous howl billowing down the valley as the Caravan slowly tread to the top only to see solemn town aglow in lantern light be barred by trees on the path with hanging bodies. The dead were still and fixed bitten black by the frost leaving a haunting vision to any and all visitors. Giving the boy his moment the caravan gathered their wits and grouped about the three wagons. Tybalt marched across the momentary camp observing all present, a head count of fifteen some men not including Kalder and his two guards Garth and Tomlin. Some of the sellswords seemed shaken. The prospect of gold and coin being a distant concern as the travel wore on them. Broken by the cold the vision the hangman’s grove before the gates of Shoal-Ridge was more than some could stomach. But to turn back was to return to the cold and the storm, this was not an option as they ran their hands over and over themselves to maintain warmth in their shivers. Others were not so frightened. If anything the horrifying sight was vindicating for their goals and this this Tybalt took note of. It was important to know those of stern resolve. Cowards ever impatient show their face quickly as one human of pale complexion emerged from a conspiring cloister demanding, “Where is the boy? We were promised further payment on arrival.” This gave the Half-Orc a momentary pause. He shouldn’t be angered, he shouldn’t feel this antagonism. Alas biting his tongue he accepted his indignant thoughts and answered roughly, “It is good to see men so willing to relieve others of their tragedy. Should we expect you to march first and lead the way?” His voice was thick and resonant. At first the man’s face was appalled but seeing Tybalt approach, noticing his size, then hearing what he suggested immediately the coward balked. “I wouldn’t presume good sir… just I wouldn’t want a promise forgotten …” A single hand large and imposing wraps about the smaller man’s shoulder as the Paladin asserts, “Then let it be.” Tensions broke as a young man with fiery hair cut short stepped out from the largest wagon. His eyes were filled with a mission only shimmering with the fright of visions that had recently befell them. Being flanked by his trusted men: two brutish men with braids, leather, and steel capped helms; Kalder approached the group letting his dark cloak wrap tight about his frame. “Those bodies were not there when I left… and no one knew that I was leaving. Nobody other than my father.” He announced.“I will send ten of you with Garth who will escort you through the front gates. You are to be traders from the west traveling to Belgrath. Five of you will come with me as we follow the Old Father’s Pass into the docks where we can slip in unnoticed through dock walls…” Taking a deep breath reality had finally sunk into the boys gut as he trembled to ask, “Any questions?” He sincerely hoped for someone to speak to hold off the moment. Deep in his heart he didn’t want to press forward. Never had the prospect of home frightened him so much, but his mind kept fixating on that tartan scarf hanging from one of the hanging bodies. He couldn’t tell the features but he knew the baker’s son Oswin had always worn one. They were friends right? The horror of the thought stopped him from remembering too much for hesitance of the tears that wished to spring freely from his eyes.